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A Midsummer Night's Dream (Open Air)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Duality has always been at the centre of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Whether it's the waking life and the dream world, fantasy and reality, the city and the wood, day and night - and in this production's case - rain and shine.

Plagued by some typically unpredictable English weather, punters should be advised to check forecasts in advance before attending as shows have been known to be called off or cancelled half way through due to downpours.

In an improvised opening scene, track-suited disorderly types shout and fight with each other and their WAGs outside caravans while the sounds of construction work drift in the background. You'd be forgiven for assuming you'd wandered into the wrong production by accident. In reality, though, those with the open-mindedness to persevere will soon realise that this is one of the most imaginative renderings of the play you'll ever come across.

Set on a gypsy caravan site Theseus (David Birrell) and Hippolyta (Katie Brayben) have been transfigured into gang leader kingpins, Demetrius (Kingsley Ben Adir) and Lysander (Tom Padley) into thuggish rivals not afraid to fight, Hermia (Hayley Gallivan) and Helena (Rebecca Oldfield) into bimbos and Bottom (George Bukhari) and co into construction workers.

Purists who are already put off should not fear, as the production's woodland scenery is remarkably faithful with its ensemble of spirits, eerily costumed by Laura Hopkins. Progressive ideas tend to work best in smaller applications, rather than a complete overhaul. In this case it¹s the city scene and inhabitants that have been changed while the woodland scene could be taken straight from a more traditional interpretation.

The vast majority of the second half is taken up by the final celebrations of the play, in scenes reminiscent of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, including the amusing spoof performance of the story of Pyramus and Thisbe by Bottom and his entourage.

Special mention should be given to Rebecca Oldfield whose Helena treads the thin line between girlish crush and sincere love to amusing effect.

- by Will Stone


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